But once the basketball goes up in the air, it belongs to West.
While West may not be the tallest in stature, few players can match the grit, determination and downright doggedness that West displays on the court. When measured by those standards, West is a giant.
“I feel like it’s always been in me,” West said, “I’ve always been this guy who has always been a dog, who likes to get gritty. It’s always been in me. I feel as though where I come from, a lot of guys are like that. It’s the hunger in us to be better, to want more for yourself. You just want to be great, honestly.”
“He’s a high-major athlete,” SCC head coach Lorenzo Watkins said. “He’s one of those guys who knows his strengths and weaknesses. He outplays his opponent. He outhustles them. He outrebounds them. He played well. That second half (Saturday) he was tremendous.”
West has helped SCC reach the Region XI championship game. The Blackhawks (17-6) will play sixth-ranked Indian Hills (20-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Hellyer Center in Ottumwa.
Through 23 games, West is averaging 11 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks and is shooting 53.5 percent from field.
Whatever his team needs, West will give everything he has to provide it.
“My goal here and further on is to better myself as a man and as a player,” West said. “Doing everything I can do to control what I can control. Do whatever I can do to help the team win.”
West grew up on the mean streets of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a city known for its high crime rate, especially violent crimes. According to 2019 statistics, Elizabeth ranks as the 10th most dangerous city in terms of violent crime. The city has 694 crimes per 100,000 residents.
For West, sports became a means of escape. While the temptation was always there, West never lost sight of his goal of making it out of Elizabeth and making something of his life.
“It was very different from out here,” West said. “Growing up on the East coast is hard, but you just have to maintain your focus. A lot of stuff happens on the East coast. Where I live at is high violence. You just have to be able to get through where I’m from. A lot of people don’t make it out where I’m from. You have to keep your head on straight.”
Basketball may have been West’s favorite sport, but it wasn’t the only sport he excelled at. He was highly recruited for football and track, as well as basketball.
“I played middle linebacker and wide receiver. Obviously I’m undersized, but they liked me because I was tall and I like to be aggressive. I like contact. I’m a dog,” West said. “I was a three-sport athlete coming out of high school — track basketball and football. I was highly recruited in all. I chose basketball only because that is the sport I loved the most coming out of high school. I loved all three sports, but what had my heart was basketball.”
West averaged 14 points, 9/7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.2 steals and 3 blocks per game as a senior at Elizabeth High School. He earned all-state accolades not only as a player, but in the classroom.
He played one season at NCAA Division II Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware, where he averaged 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.4 blocks while shooting 56.9 percent from the field.
West was a late arrival on the SCC campus, but quickly found a place in the Blackhawks’ starting lineup with his heart, hustle and dogged determination. He is a leader by example, letting his play on the court speak for itself.
“My role was to come in and be a leader and bring all the energy to the team. Coming in with a lot of highly-touted recruits … there’s a lot of talent over here. Coming in with my guys, I come in to work every day.”
“When you don’t play with energy and effort, you’re just an average player,” Watkins said. “That’s what separates him from being good and great is because he plays with a lot of energy all the time.”
For West, the journey has just begun. He plans to transfer to a four-year school and continue to play basketball and pursue a degree in sports management, with a minor in nursing.
West has not forgotten his roots on the mean streets of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a place that that can chew up a person and spit them out before they know what hit them. West plans to get into coaching and return to Elizabeth to help others find their way out of the dead-end streets the same way he did.
West wants to give kids the same hope for a better future that he had. All he wants is to give the kids back home a chance.
“I’m looking to coach younger kids around where I grew up at and start a lot of youth camps due to the fact that there’s not so many people on your back about getting in the gym,” West said. “That’s a key factor in being great and getting to where you want to go in life. I never had anybody on my back. I just had to do it on my own. I did it for myself because I wanted to be great. I feel like kids where I come from need a mentor and some guidance on what they need to do to be great. I want to be that person for them.”
TUESDAY, APRIL 6
SCC at Indian Hills, 7 p.m.
North Dakota State College of Science at Dawson, 7 p.m.
NORTH CENTRAL DISTRICT
SATURDAY, APRIL 10
Region XI winner at Region 13 winner, 6 p.m.
Winner advances to the national tournament April 19-24 in Hutchinson, Kansas